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“It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

Bahá’u’lláh

 

Since I work from home and we aren’t very social people, I don’t get a lot of social interaction.  So I was really surprised recently when I talked to an Examiner at the USPTO.  I had called him to ask about the status of a case.  He asked me if I was on the East Coast and I responded that I was on Mountain time because I live in Utah.  I guess he took that to mean I am conservative because he said that he lives in Colorado but it’s tough for him because they limited the gun laws so he can’t buy AR-15’s.  He went on to say that he doesn’t like Denver because it doesn’t look like the United States.

I’ve been mulling over the conversation for a few weeks and I have three distinct thoughts.

1. Stop complaining about immigrants

This examiner kept complaining about immigrants.  In addition to complaining that Denver is too diverse, he complained about how hard it is to work at the USPTO because he has to work with non-native speakers.  He said he used to only understand 70% of what his boss says and now it’s up to 80% but he feels that it’s harming his ability to do quality work.

I found his comments to be outrageous.  First off, I don’t understand why people complain about immigrants being in the United States.  With the exception of Native Americans, the essence of America is that it was founded by immigrants.  In the beginning it was people from Britain, France, Spain, etc.  And now it’s people from Mexico, South American, India, etc.  If you live in the U.S. you need to accept that it’s a diverse country.  Sure, you can live in your little uniform pockets.  Believe me, I know, I live in Utah.  But the major cities are going to be diverse.  That’s never going to change.

Second, he picked one of the worst places to work if he doesn’t like immigrants.  I think 50% of the examiners I talk to were born outside the U.S.  And for the most part, they’re kind reasonable people.  This examiner is the worst person I’ve ever interacted with at the USPTO because he’s so intolerant.

The goal should be to embrace our differences and learn from them.  One of the best things I’ve ever done is visit China.  I never realized until that trip that a culture could be so different from mine.  And that’s fantastic.  I’ve been learning about Chinese culture and Chinese cooking, and it’s fascinating.  Life is boring if you stay in the same place and only interact with people like you.

2. No one wants to hear about your take on guns

This examiner lectured me about how Colorado is passing the wrong kind of gun laws and limiting his ability to buy the guns that he wants to buy.  Even if I was pro-gun, this discussion would have been uncomfortable because of his fervor surrounding gun rights.  Don’t discuss guns at work.  No one is going to change my stance; no one is going to change your stance.

3. Don’t talk politics when you’re in a position of power

I really want this examiner to allow the case he’s examining.  That means I’m not in a position where I can be blunt and tell the examiner he was being inappropriate.  And he should know that.  It was very telling that this examiner said at the end of our conversation, “I hope I didn’t say anything that was too politically incorrect.”  That is a person who knows that everything he said was politically incorrect.  This examiner was probably lonely since he works from home and quite possibly has few friends given that they would have to be pro-gun white males to satisfy his requirements, but that’s no excuse.  Maybe he should welcome some diversity in his life just so he can have someone to talk to.

 

 

Ava Is 25 Months Old

No promises that I’ll keep this up for the full year, but it’s a nice way to look up Ava’s progress when I want to remember various milestones.

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Independence/Motor Skills

  • Ava’s getting to be a bit too independent.  She’s becoming a runner in the grocery store.  I used to be able to shop knowing that she wouldn’t let me out of her sight, but now I often have to hold her while I shop because she’s comfortable being two aisles away from me and I am not.
  • She’s a master climber.  She got annoyed yesterday because she came across a tree without sufficient footholds.  She kept saying “Climb?  Climb?”

Foods and Liquids

Ava is a great eater.  She eats a lot more vegetables than I expect a toddler to eat.  For example, she likes mushrooms.  The only things she doesn’t like are stuff that’s too spicy and leafy greens.  Everything else she’ll at least eat a few bites of.  Her favorite thing right now is the food at this Mexican seafood restaurant we visit.  She loves the refried beans, rice, and shrimp quesadillas.  She eats more food at that restaurant that she often eats during a regular day.

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Sleep

Ava is going through a transition right now.  If she naps during the day, she doesn’t go down until at least 10pm, sometimes 11pm.  If she doesn’t nap, she goes down quickly and by 9pm.  But it’s a balance.  On the weekends I usually give her naps because otherwise by 4pm she’s a wreck.  Or, like today, she fell asleep on the way to the library and I returned books, found new books, and checked out those books all while she was sleeping on my shoulder.  Then we drove home and she slept for another hour.

Language Skills

  • In my last post I said Ava knew eight birds, but she knows two more!  She knows: macaw, duck, chicken, goose, peacock, flamingo, owl, crow, penguin, and turkey.
  • She knows so many random words too.  Like today she pointed in a book and correctly identified a scarecrow.
  • She understands context as well.  The other day she was going down steps.  I said “careful” and she responded “Careful steps!”
  • She also knows enough words to make her desires known, which can be helpful.  Today she said “Take Teddy for a walk,” which meant she wanted to hold his leash as we walked around the neighborhood.  It made her so happy to do that today.

Updates

Ava knows so many specific words!  Her knowledge of different types of birds expands every day.  The newest bird is flamingo.  Now she knows macaw, duck, chicken (including the distinction between roosters and hens), goose, peacock, flamingo, owl, and crow.  She knows so many random animals too.  She has British pronunciations for zebra (sounds like zeb-bra) and turtle (she says tortious) because she watches to many British shows.

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Ava had her two-year checkup and she did great.  She is 91% for head circumference (from her dad), 84% for height (at 35.39 inches), and 70% for weight (at 28.4 lbs).  The weight surprised me since she’s such a skinny baby, but I guess it’s because she’s so tall.  The doctor asked if she has started putting two words together, which is funny since she talks in sentences.  My favorite last week was “What doing mommy?” but she regularly says five-word sentences.

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Last week I went to D.C. for about two days (just one night) and it was the first time that Ava really missed me.  For previous trips she would look for me when I was gone, but this time Jon said she asked for me and cried when he said I went away.  We did a video chat and she kept telling me to come downstairs because she thought I was upstairs.  This weekend she was extra concerned when Jon and I would leave the house.  It will be hard to travel overnight again.

Veggie Pot Pie

pie

I made a veggie pot pie the other day from a bunch of cobbled together recipes and my own flair.  I just couldn’t find one online that worked.  I’m particularly giving the side-eye to this recipe, which added soy sauce to the veggie pot pie.  Nasty!

Crust Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Crust Instructions

Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl  whisk together the flour, the sugar, and the salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces.  Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with your hands. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — stop.

Start by drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together.  Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there. Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.

Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

 

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms – sliced
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • two cups potatoes – diced
  • 2 cups green beans – chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • glug of sherry

Filling Instructions

Melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for or five minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.  Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and sherry for taste.

Boil the carrots and potatoes until piercable with a fork.  Add the green beans and continue boiling until the carrots are soft.  Add to the flour mixture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Add the filling.  Roll the second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and cut decorative slits in it. Transfer it to center over the pie filling. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes to allow the filling to solidify.

 

 

Talking

Ava holds long conversations now.  She’ll ask a question, you answer it, and she has a follow-up statement.

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Before Ava I used to swear a lot.  I’m good at not swearing now, but I need to further modify my language because she’s learning my replacement words.  For example, normally I would call someone an asshole, but now I call them a crazy person.  However, I heard Ava repeat “crazy person” back at me.  And that seems like a bad thing for a two-year old to walk around saying.  Another example is that Ava was asking about body parts when I was changing and when she pointed at me and asked what was that, I said “boobs.”  Her nanny was pretty embarrassed when Ava started talking about boobs and bras.  Although I’m not sure if her talking about breasts would be much better.

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We went to a friend’s house for dinner the other night and on the way home Ava kept saying, “Hi!  I’m Ava!”  I love how she says her name.  It sounds like Ave-ah.  My favorite pronunciation of hers, though, is baby.  It sounds like bee-bee.  Ava has been categorizing things that come in two’s and three’s as mamma object, daddy object, and baby object, so I get to hear bee-bee object a lot.

 

Ava is Two

Birthdays are so bittersweet.  I love everything that Ava is learning and the person she’s becoming.  But I miss my tiny baby and her little noises.  Happy birthday my baby.

First Week

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First Year

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Second Year

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Independence/Motor Skills

  • Ava has been really into jumping lately.  She likes running in the grass and then letting the grass slide on her shoes as she jumps.
  • She has also learned to climb steps on the jungle gym at the park by herself.  I’m really impressed, they take a lot of effort but she loves the struggle.
  • Ava also likes to climb up my body and fall upside down.  She’s such a thrill seeker.
  • Ava is still very into organizing things.  If you give her a bunch of objects, she’ll reorder them for awhile.

Ava420

Foods and Liquids

  • Ava continues to be great about eating different kinds of food.  I often make a plain version of dinner for her and a spicier version for us.  Since Ava is more interested in eating my food than her own, she’s getting exposure to spices.
  • Right now she loves scrambled eggs, shrimp, soups, spaghetti, cake, cookies, grits, and biscuits with grape jelly.
  • She still wants me to hold her when she drinks bottles of milk.  I’m trying to soak it up because she’s far from being a baby anymore.

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Sleep

Sleep has been horrific.

  • Ava was sick a few weeks back and now she’s developed the habit of waking up between 2 and 5.  She stays up between 30 minutes and two hours.  It’s really hard for me, especially when it’s closer to two hours than a half hour.
  • This month we tried setting up a twin bed for Ava in her bedroom.  The idea was that I would sleep in her room with her for the first couple days and then slowly spend less time in her room.  However, she got so upset when I tried to get her to sleep in the twin bed that she threw up.  So she will be staying with me until she’s old enough to talk about it with me.  Which might be soon, the way her language is going!

Language Skills

  • Ava is putting sentences together.  She recently said “Teddy eating pencil” when Teddy tried to chew on one of her pencils.  She also said “I put on jacket too.”
  • Her vocabulary is amazing.  If you tell her a word a few times, she knows it.  We were working on a book with different types of balls.  After reading the book one night and picking it up three days later, she can now identify soccer balls!
  • Ava has a new obsession with butts, diapers, and pooping.  She’s always talking about pooping, even though she’s not actually pooping.  The other day she said “Diaper on butt” during a diaper change.  She also thinks this Yogurtland sign is a butt pooping, although I think she might be right about that one.

Yogurtland

  • Ava insists that you call her a kitty cat.  If you call her baby or even Ava she will correct you with kitty.  For example, if I say “Ava is sleepy” she will say “Kitty sleepy.”
  • We’ve been working on emotions and they’re all coming now.  Kitty is sad, happy, and silly.  Kitty also experiences a lot of physical senses like being cold, hot, and hurting.

 

Ava These Days

It’s still all about language.  Ava chatters and I can understand maybe 70% now.

Ava417

Here are some little snippets.

  • Ava is very concerned about water, rain, and puddles.  She also knows that umbrellas are associated with rain.  When she sees patio umbrellas, she points at them and says rain.  She goes through all her possessives about daddy’s boots, mommy’s boots, and baby’s boots (“bee-bee boots”).
  • She can learn new words very quickly.  She’ll say “What’s that?” about six times and then she’ll start repeating your answer.  This is how she learned the word poop when she was inspecting bird poop.
  • She’s learning to put her words together in interesting ways.  She wants to tell me that the cat was digging a hole and she said “Hole kitty doing.”  I think that’s really amazing.

Ava418

  • Ava has started to refuse to change her clothing.  I used to be able to change her pants by changing her diaper and switching out pants at the same time.  But the other day she refused to let me put pants back on her.  But!  After an hour she said “pants.”  I showed her two pairs of pants, she chose one, and she let me put them on her.  But I’m only able to change her shirt by giving her a bath, hiding the dirty shirt, and putting a new shirt on her.  I’m hoping this phase ends soon.

I spent most of my life intimidated by dough.  I tried my first pie about six months ago and it came out perfect.  Then my dough started being awful.  It wouldn’t mix together to make a dough.  Instead it would crumble when I tried to form it.  If I added more water, it would get too sticky and it would never role out properly.

 

I tried every variation of temperature, changing the water, changing how cold the butter was, using recipes with different amounts of butter, etc.  I finally found that the trick is to use nice butter with a Smitten Kitchen recipe modified to replace lard with butter since we’re vegetarians.  KellyGold Butter from Trader Joe’s is the best.  I think I’ve also finally mastered my lattice techniques.

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Crust

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
17 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
10 tablespoons ice water

1. Mix flour, salt and sugar with a whisk until combined. Use your hands to combine the butter until it forms little pea-sized granules.

2. Sprinkle 8 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if it will not come together. Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. (If possible, weigh pieces. They should register 16 ounces and 14 ounces.) Flatten larger piece into a rough 5-inch square and smaller piece into a 4-inch disk; (If for a non-lattice, double crust pie, these pieces should be even in weight and both round) wrap separately in plastic and refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.

Filling and Pie

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1. Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9 1/2-inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Working around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.

2. Peel apples and cut without hitting the core on four sides.  Cut quarters into 1/4-inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss dry ingredients with apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

3. Set oven to 425°F.  To make a lattice-top pie, cut the pie dough into strips anywhere from 1/2 to 1-inch wide with a knife. Arrange every other strip across your pie filling in one direction, spacing the strips evenly. Fold back every other strip gently on itself and add the longest remaining strip in the other direction (diagram here). Fold the strips back down, repeat with the other strips until a full lattice-top is formed. Trim the lattice’s overhang to the diameter of the pie dish’s rim (i.e. no overhang; only the bottom crust will have that). Gently fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips.  Use a pastry brush to apply the egg white.

4. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375°F; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer.

5. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours.

Ava is 23 Months Old

Ava is practically a two-year old!

 

Independence/Motor Skills

Ava is very independent.  She’s been obsessed with jumping in muddy puddles.  She knows exactly where they are in the neighborhood and if they’re present, you have to force her to leave them kicking and screaming.  It used to be that we could say “bye bye Ava” and walk away and she would follow.  But now you get the impression you could be gone for an hour and she wouldn’t notice.

Ava is very obsessed with order.  We went to Portland for the weekend.  On the way back from Portland she spent 40 minutes organizing placards in the seat in front of us.  At home she can spend an hour organizing her magnets or lining up her animals.

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She’s fairly fearless.  It takes a lot to make her hesitant.  She had no problems with this giant slide, which is funny because the first thing I said when we got to the park was “She cannot go up that slide.”

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Ava is so serious these days.  She does not want you to tease her when she’s working on her projects.  It’s getting harder and harder to take pictures where she’s smiling.  She has her goofy phases, but when Ava is still she’s usually making her serious face.

Foods and Liquids

If Ava likes something she will eat all of it.  In Portland Ava ate her weight in shrimp and Mexican food.  She’s also obsessed with eating ice.  She asks for it every day.

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Sleep

Ava is still spending more time in her bed.  Last night she lasted until 2:40 a.m., although since we flew in from Portland she didn’t go down until 11:30.  This weekend we’re going to try giving her a twin bed in her room that I will initially sleep in with her and then I’ll slowly try to escape from her room after she falls asleep.  Jon already bought her a Peppa Pig comforter to make it an extra exciting bed.

 

On our last day in Portland we rented a car so we could explore the city and give Ava a place to nap.  She napped for an hour and we went to a restaurant for an early dinner.  Ava was apparently not done napping because inside the restaurant, with loud metal music playing, Ava fell back asleep for AN HOUR.  When she sleeps she likes to have one of her hands stuffed inside my shirt.  And that is how we got the picture below:

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Language Skills

It was good timing for us to spend three days with Ava because we were able to observe an evolution in her language.

  • Ava has been describing things as sad lately, like “Daddy sad.”  Yesterday Ava put several concepts together and referred to herself as sad by saying “Baby is sad.”  She was upset that Jon was talking to the Uber driver instead of her.
  • We’re having more back and forth conversations with Ava.  She will say “outside” and we’ll say something like “outside after dinner” and she understands.
  • She says a new verb every day.  Today she told me to catch something and to hold something else.

 

 

I have no experience with kids so I find the evolution of language to be interesting.  First Ava made animal noises.  Then she started saying the words of the animals.  Next she started organizing her nouns.  The other day before we went out she said “boots, jacket, hat, gloves.”

Ava is finally okay with wearing winter clothing.  She actual requests her hat and gloves and complains that it’s “cold.”  If her hands are ungloved for long enough she’ll say that they “hurt.”  Also if she’s wearing a hat you have to pair it with the gloves.  These things go together.  Similarly, if Jon is wearing a hat, Ava also has to be wearing a hat.

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I can also learn a lot about Ava’s vocabulary when we leave a place because she says goodbye to all the objects.  For example, when we leave parks she says “bye-bye tree, bye-bye car, bye-bye road.”  She’s also working on possessives.  Ava talks a lot about “daddy’s boots.”

Mommy’s food is always better than the same item in Ava’s bowl

Ava415

Now Ava is working on verbs.  She says “I go” and “bird going.”  When I read books to her at night she repeats the verbs in the book.  When Jon went to work on Saturday Ava said “Dada going, bye bye daddy.”  Tonight she repeated “sit” after I read about three bears sitting on chairs from Goodnight Moon.  The other day she was giving Teddy his food and she kept saying “I throw.”

Ava likes raw beets.

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Ava’s always had a lot of chatter, but now I can understand at least a third of it.

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